Hours before he led Nigeria into their final World Cup group phase tie against Argentina, Mikel John Obi was told that his father had been kidnapped- However was warned his father would be killed if he reported anything. A family member called to drop the shocking news as he travelled on the team bus to the stadium in St Petersburg last Tuesday.
The Captain’s father Michael Obi was abducted in south-east Nigeria as he travelled to a funeral along the Makurdi-Enugu expressway from Jos. The footballer said he didn’t tell anyone at the Nigerian Football Federation because he feared they might distract him.
He told Guardian, he had to suppress the trauma, although he was emotionally distraught -he says he had to make the decision about whether he was mentally ready to play.
“I played while my father was in the hands of bandits,” I had to suppress the trauma. I took a call four hours before kick-off to tell me what had happened.
“I was emotionally distraught and I had to make the decision about whether I was mentally ready to play. I was confused. I did not know what to do but, in the end, I knew that I could not let 180 million Nigerians down. I had to shut it out of my head and go and represent my country first. I could not even inform the coaches or NFF staff and only a very tight circle of my friends knew.
“I was told that they would shoot my dad instantly if I reported to the authorities or told anybody. I also did not want to discuss it with the coach [Gernot Rohr] because I did not want my issue to become a distraction to him or the rest of the team on the day of such an important game. As much as I wanted to discuss it with the coach, I could not.
“Thankfully, my father was safely released on Monday afternoon. I thank the police authorities for their rescue efforts and the support I’ve received from friends and family members. Unfortunately, my dad is now in hospital receiving emergency treatment as a result of the torture he received during his capture.”
A late goal from Marcus Rojo saw Nigeria lose 2-1 and subsequently crashed out of the 2018 FIFA World cup in Russia.